When you’re on a Walt Disney World vacation getting the most out of your time of the parks is a priority for many visitors. You are paying a pretty penny for the privilege to be in the park and there are only so many hours that it’s open. I always remind readers here on Frugal Mouse that time = money which is especially true when you’re touring the parks. A key to getting the most bang for your buck is to avoid long lines at Disney World.
There are two ends of the spectrum for people who tour the parks – on one side of the scale you have the what I like to call stop and smell the roses group. People who stop and smell the roses like to take their time through the parks, spend time on benches soaking up the atmosphere and spend time strolling through the parks or shopping.
At the other end of the spectrum you have what I like to call the commando park tourers. For this group every minute of your day is planned to optimize seeing the most possible in the time the park is open – they are at the gates before the park opens are are being shoo’d out by security at the end of the night.
I’ve tended to fall into the more commando style of park touring mainly because I want to get the most out of my time in the parks. I remember back when I was younger we would have to go during the summer months because we had school. I was excited during many trips to find out that the parks were open until 1am and trust me – we were going right up until the park closed!
Whether you fall into one of these two groups or somewhere in-between we all share the same goal of spending the least amount of time in lines as possible. Spending time in lines can easily eat up hours of your day, even though Disney’s queues are highly themed let’s face it – nobody want to spend too much time in them.
I’ve put together a list of tips, sites & resources that you can used during your next trip to help you maximize your time in the parks by avoiding lines & crowds. I’ve used all of the resources I listed out below and can vouch for their effectiveness – you will save yourself a lot of time by following their suggestions & plans.
General Line Avoiding Tips
Get to the parks early
Being at the gates for the park opening will allow you to hit the major attractions before the large crowds show up. Yes you’re on vacation and may want to sleep in but simply getting to the parks right at opening will save you hours in line during the rest of the day.
The attractions you’ll want to hit at each of the parks is as follows:
- Magic Kingdom – Space, Splash and Big Thunder Mountains
- Epcot – Soarin’, Test Track
- Hollywood Studios – Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock’n’Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror
- Animal Kingdom – Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris
Staying off-site? Avoid Parks with Extra Magic Hours.
Resort guests will head to these parks to take advantage of the extra magic hours making them more crowded the rest of the day. The major attractions at each of the parks will have lines at them already, negating the benefit of getting there early.
Staying on-site? Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.
Even though the rest of the day may be slightly more crowded you’ll have plenty of time to hit all of the major attractions during your extra hours in the morning or night.
Plan your Vacation During the Off Season
Choosing the right times to take your vacation can have a huge impact on how much time you spend in lines. I’ve covered the 5 cheapest times to go to Walt Disney World which align with the lowest crowd levels during the year. Going during the summer, holidays or other peak times will mean huge crowds and long lines.
Use the My Disney Experience App
Disney has a great iOS app that can help you navigate your day when touring the parks. The app will allow you to set your Fastpass+ reservations, see current wait times and make dining reservations – all from your iPhone.
I find the current wait times and Fastpass+ especially useful because you can check on them from anywhere – no more finding a central location or having to walk over to the attractions to see the wait times.
This may seem to be a no-brainer to most but surprisingly many people still don’t use Fastpass+ to make ride reservations. Back in the old days when you had to run from attraction collecting them it was a whole different story but now with Fastpass+ things are much easier and more organized.
Fastpass+ now allows an initial 3 reservations plus additional reservations after those first three are used up so plan accordingly on which attractions you’ll want to hit at what times.
Avoid Eating During “Normal” Dining Hours
For most people, lunch happens between 11:30am – 1pm, dinner between 5pm-7pm. A tip to avoid lines at restaurants as well as being able to hit more attractions is to eat your meals outside of those busy hours. I like to eat an early breakfast then have an early lunch.
In the later afternoon I’ll usually have a nice sized snack then eat a later dinner, after 7pm.
Use those prime dining hours to hit attractions or shows for lighter lines because most people will be off eating during those hours.
Consult a Crowd Calendar
You can find crowd calendars at many Disney planning sites which forecast what the crowd levels will be on a particular day. They take into account historical levels, special events, extra magic hours plus many other factors to predict which days will be crowded and not at the parks.
Plan your days to visit the parks on the lowest crowd level days according to the calendars which are generally accurate – it’ll help save you time in lines. See the below for a few sites that have good crowd prediction calendars.
EasyWDW has a load of great information on crowd levels, park touring plans and park recommendations on particular days. I’ve personally used EasyWDW’s park calendars and touring plans to help avoid the busiest days in the parks to keep line waiting time down.
In addition to the crowd level and park touring plans EasyWDW has many other great resources to help you plan your try to Walt Disney World.
Touring Plans has some of the most extensive researched crowd levels and park touring plans you’ll find out there. Touring Plans has two main areas of interest that will help you avoid the lines & crowds on your vacation – crowd calendar and park touring plans.
The crowd calendar on their site is based off of historical data as well as projections from their park spotters which can continually update/adjust park crowd level projections. The crowd level calendars is a very useful tool to help you choose which parks to attend on which days during your vacation.
I’ve a huge fan of the park touring plans as well from their site. The park touring plans gives you a guideline of which attractions to hit in which order which will help you avoid the lines. I’ve always set a plan of attack in the parks to prevent the long waits in lines.
The only downside is that Touringplans.com charges a small subscription fee of $12.95/year to use their services. I find that even with the small fee it is still worth the cost – Tip: Get 20% off if you subscribe with the promo code “DEDICATION”
Undercover tourist has a detailed crowd calendar to let you know which days are best to visit the parks. The calendars include additional information such as special events, refurbishments, and even Universal Orlando park calendars. They also have some of the best prices when it comes to park tickets so check them out when you’re ready to buy as well.
Spending time in lines during your vacation is something that nobody wants to do, especially when you are spending a lot of money to be in the parks. By using the tips & resources above you should be able to save yourself hours of time in line which will allow you to experience more or simply stop and smell the roses.
Do you have a special tip to avoid lines in the parks? Share your tip in the comments!